NCLB Made Us Better.

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It’s true.

We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.

In fact this may be the most unpopular position I’ve ever taken on this blog (although I catch a lot of grief when I call The Evil Spawn “Evil”.)nclb

Educators are bred to dislike everything that is new.

This is understandable because so much new stuff is dumped on us and most of it is easily recognized as junk.

Kind of like the new fall TV season (do we really need a new Tim Allen show?).

NCLB wasn’t thought out (surprise, surprise… when the government is involved).

It wasn’t good for kids.

It was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

And even with all of this, it made us better.

Yes, you heard me right.

Schools, teachers, and administrators  have improved significantly 10 years after NCLB was dropped like a big greasy bowl of school spaghetti in their laps .

We may dislike President Bush, mandated testing, and the Department of Education, but if we are honest with ourselves there is only one conclusion.

The world doesn’t need another bad Tim Allen sitcom (I haven’t seen it, so maybe it’s better than I envision… and his movies).

Sorry, there are two conclusions.

The second is NCLB demanded we work harder, pay more attention to curriculum, and made us all more accountable on the local, state, and federal levels.

It was flawed legislation and yet we still improved.

This makes me wonder how much better public education could be if the government actually had a clue about educating kids.

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9 Responses to “NCLB Made Us Better.”


  1. Karen Marcus
    on Oct 15th, 2011
    @ 5:02 pm

    I agree. Well said.


  2. Charles Schultz
    on Oct 15th, 2011
    @ 5:17 pm

    I would agree that good things have come out of NCLB. To the extent that some good always manages to leak out of any kind of bureaucratic government policy. Fortunately. :)

    So, taking that last statement to heart, who does actually have a clue about educating kids? We have tons (quite possibly in a literal sense) of research that could suggest any number of “best practices”. Which one of those is really the best?

    Granted, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, which is without a doubt the biggest obstacle. Talk about working harder, how about coming up with a per-child solution. And in order to do that, we must agree on what direction we are heading. Obama tells us he wants more Science and Math (actually, I read higher scores in Science and Math, not necessarily more quantity). I read about how we need more rigor, more STEM so as to get more warm-bodies in money-making tech jobs. Is that the route we want to go?

    I ask out of sincerity. I ask because I genuinely want to know. What do we want?

    Personally, I prefer that we teach kids how to be human first. How to resolve conflict, how to fight injustice and oppression, how to replace bad habits with good habits, how to have a holistic viewpoint the benefits the whole. We are sorely lacking in those areas, but there is no tangible test for it, no “let’s sum our complete knowledge in a 3-digit number” metric.

    But what do you want? What do others want?

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Charles Schultz, I think academically we are getting close.

    As far as teaching them to be human, we are a ways away. Especially, as society changes and the responsibility on schools grows.


  3. Michelle Howell-Martin
    on Oct 15th, 2011
    @ 5:47 pm

    I was afraid to read past the title, but the last three sentences made me glad I did. Thanks for pointing out that some good came out of it!

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Michelle Howell-Martin, You should always be afraid.

    Very afraid.


  4. Dina Rae
    on Oct 16th, 2011
    @ 5:00 pm

    Reading your blog only made me smile. It is often that we tackle the maze of how to make education better by scratching our heads and scapegoating NCLB and whatever policy our state(s) came up with. I wrote several articles, reflecting upon some greats (Reeves and Patterson for instance) about creating a system of accountability that is not fighting the system but rather enhancing it without burdening our teachers… check it out at http://www.dinahrae.com


  5. Mike Soskil
    on Oct 17th, 2011
    @ 6:44 am

    I can’t say that I agree with you. We’re not better on the things that matter. As we push further into the 21st century, skills that our children need are being ignored.

    Yes. It made us work harder. But not smarter. And certainly not on the things that we needed to work on. When you look at the group of educators in this country, we are not well versed on formative assessment, teaching critical thinking, or teaching students to use the tools they will need when they leave our classrooms. Yet, NCLB made us work harder to teach more “stuff.” More “math”. More “reading.” I put those terms in quotes because it’s not what we are really teaching. We’re teaching calculation and skimming. Not real problem solving or research the way it’s done in the “real world.”

    We throw around the term “data based instruction” but use the cheapest, easiest to obtain data out there (one-time standardized test data) that is months old instead of data from assessments within our lessons that could allow us to change teaching to meet our student’s needs right away. We claim that we need “accountability”, but find that we are accountable to politicians who are accountable to big corporations. It’s time for us to be accountable to our students. It’s time to focus on what’s important to their futures.

    And what’s important is everything that NCLB took the focus away from: Critical thinking, 21st century communication skills, global collaboration, innovation, and creativity.


  6. Sarah Powell
    on Oct 18th, 2011
    @ 3:19 pm

    As I was reading a few of your blogs I can not help but see that you have a great sense of humor. On the subject of whether I see a change in our education because of NCLB, the answer is yes and no. I do agree that parts have changed but as a whole we have so much more to accomplish and I would not call what has happened “change”. In some ways we have gone backwards. You have look at how our students that are learning disabled have been the ones to suffer because they are being forced to keep up with the rest of their peers.

    Many teachers are also having to suffer because of NCLB. Teachers are having to compensate in their classrooms to keep everyone learning on the same level. Teachers are doing the job of the special educator. Is there anything that can be done or are our hands tied.

    * I will be commenting on this post on my blog next week.


  7. Maggie
    on Nov 8th, 2011
    @ 10:20 pm

    Great blog. I don’t agree, but great blog.

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